To lead ourselves can often be a challenge in itself. But when we lead a team or a company, the responsibility for ensuring productivity and motivation becomes all the more complex. Often leaving leaders feeling overwhelmed and under-satisfied.
There are many reasons for this, but this overwhelm is often related to three prominent limiting beliefs which society has cultivated, and which we have held close to our hearts for what I believe to be way too long.
This toxic triad includes a fixed mindset, a weakness focus and the belief that belonging and diversity are incompatible. When in effect, this combination leads to disconnection, hopeless and loss of esteem in self and society. An exhausting and destructive situation for any team or company to find itself in.
In this article, I will unpack these three beliefs and introduce a potential antidote for each one, which when applied in the leadership of teams can:
- Increase collective achievement
- Boost collaboration and innovation
- Encourage individual growth and development
So, let’s get started.
Shifting from The Toxic Triad
For as long as we can remember, there has always been a focus on what is not working, on where we are weak, and the differences between “us” and “them”. This worldview potentially served our empires, agricultural settlements and self-preservation efforts. However, as we move towards a more global community and economy, with every waking (and sleeping) moment, the need to build positive, collaborative efforts becomes of utmost importance. For us to begin breaking down these barriers, we need to know more about these three limiting beliefs and begin seeing how they are playing out in our daily lives.
Number 1: The Fixed Mindset
A fixed mindset is defined as when people believe that their basic qualities, talents and intelligence are fixed traits; that they are fully developed and thus unchangeable. This fixed mindset is what leads us to say things like: “I am not good enough” or “I am really bad at…”.
A fixed mindset can cause:
- Avoidant behaviours,
- Fear of failure,
- Reduced engagement,
- Increased depression and
- A higher risk of burnout.
But is there a plus side to this fixed mindset? The good news is that there definitely is. A fixed mindset is not fixed! Our brains can rewire and learn. And when we begin to notice the difference between “not good enough” and “not good enough YET”, we will start to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
We can begin to look at our staff, our teams, our products and our companies as constantly evolving and pliable. This is a necessary move for any company looking to keep learning and developing. When our perspective shifts, we open ourselves up to real growth; and in fact, make success more likely.
Number 2: The Weakness Focus
We tend to focus on our development areas, our weakest links and lowest test scores. We do this because as a human race we want to succeed, improve and be better than those that came before us (including the you of yesterday). And while we know that this mentality has, in a way, led us to become incredible innovators, problem-solvers and constructors of our world, we are also stuck focusing on what is not working well.
This weakness focus leads to:
- Reduced self-esteem,
- Lowered efficiency,
- Narrow-mindedness and
- Reduced problem-solving ability.
Focusing on weaknesses also makes us tired; we become exhausted with our fear of failure. This in turn drains us of our creativity, playfulness and hope. In essence, a weakness focus in the workplace has a detrimental effect on our productivity, innovation and satisfaction with the end product.
As a leader, we tend to look at what went wrong, and we can forget what our people bring to the table. We all have strengths; some are better at execution while others are the relationship builders. Every individual within your team and company has a unique set of strengths and talents, and when these become the focus, we begin to build people and products which are collectively amazing.
When we work outside of our strengths, we become tired; however, when we work using our strengths not only do we become elated, motivated and dedicated, but we accomplish our goals and share the good news with others. A strengths-based approach is the number one most important leadership capacity you can develop for your company.
Number 3: Unity and Diversity are Incompatible
Compatibility is a curious concept. When we think of a romantic relationship where people are considered compatible, it is because they share something in common, have similar values and enjoy similar activities. They are familiar to each other and therefore it is more comfortable for them to settle with each other. However, many long-time married couples will agree that the most important thing is not in fact compatibility, but rather understanding. It is the differences we see in each other that keep our interest, teach us humility, and keep us learning.
So why should it be any different in a workplace?
Even people who appear the same, are all different. In fact, a quote from Gallup’s book Strengths Based Leadership (Rath and Conchie, 2008) describes this point perfectly:
“Look at people’s strengths, not their gender, race, or age.”
When we think of diversity, we think of demographics; however, if we were to assess the strength distribution of a workforce, we would see the multifaceted and unique combination of strengths a group of individuals has. With this knowledge, we can see that we are all different, from a twin sibling or a life partner, and more often than not, that is why we grow, innovate, and develop. It is through the collaborative efforts of individuals with differing views that great products and services are created. In fact, Rath and Conchie say that: “the more diverse the team is in age, gender, and ethnicity, […], the greater the level of engagement. And the greater the engagement, the greater the productivity and retention.”
It is therefore imperative that we shift the belief that homogeneity is better than diversity and begin recognising the potential that unique individuality can bring to a team and company. Only when we notice the individual talents and strengths of our employees can we begin to live our potential.
We are all familiar with the effects of the toxic triad. We have all in some or other way felt drained by our work, isolated or frustrated with our colleagues and employees, or limited in our cognitive capacity because of reduced motivation and disconnection from our work. Burnout, depression, low self-esteem, ruined relationships and lost opportunities are all results of this inhibiting combination of limiting beliefs.
Aren’t you tired of being tired, not good enough and isolated? The leaders who are moving companies across the globe towards becoming more meaningful and successful are those that are aware and active in shifting away from what was not working to what is. Don’t get left out or stuck in a rut. Move yourself and your company forward by focusing on strengths, noticing what growth is happening and recognising the value of diversity for success.
Good luck on your journey😊
Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2008) Strengths-Based Leadership. Gallup Press.